26 July 2012

Football clubs and intellectual property rights

I'm a football fan. That's soccer to many people from the likes of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and even just across the Irish Sea in Ireland. Readers from these countries may not appreciate the "Beautiful Game" but they should fear not as a great number of my compatriots also do not understand what the appeal is of "watching 22 men run around kicking a ball" either.

Nevertheless, the European football season will rapidly be upon us and the commercial success of the game in Europe is obvious.

How do Europe's leading clubs compare when it comes to their IP protection? I have compiled some statistics using data from CTM-Online, RCD-Online and ROMARIN. As football becomes more and more globalised it made sense to me that research should be concentrated on who has sought protection across the European Union and through the Madrid Protocol or, in other words, outside of their national borders.

I have used Deloitte's report on Europe's 30 biggest clubs supplementing it with the Old Firm and the biggest side in the EU capital of Brussels, Anderlecht.

Rangers may prove to have the best IP portfolio for a club in Scottish League Division Three, that's assuming they are a successor in title to these IP assets. The original Rangers went into administration and will eventually be liquidated; the 'newco' will probably start life again three divisions lower. (You may have seen some additional comment on the Rangers brand on the IPKat recently, which I feel many football fans will disagree with.)

Statistics will never tell the whole story. Some of the more established teams may have obtained protection in other countries prior to the advent of the Community Trade Mark or could have different registration strategies. Some team names, particularly those of a place name, would be difficult to register as word marks. Registered designs will be unavailable for a club crest that has been unchanged for a number of years. A number of the design registrations are for new stadiums (and some for mascots) and many clubs have not moved grounds for many years.

Liverpool's historic Anfield home but for how long?
Designs for a new stadium are registered with OHIM
Perhaps interestingly given the tribal nature of football, a very cursory check has 12 of the 33 featured clubs using a representative based in another city. Furthermore, two sets of city rivals use the same representative, although the likelihood of disputes in the trade mark arena are far less than on the football field. Two of the 33 represented themselves directly before the OHIM. Is this a surprisingly low number given the in-house legal expertise these clubs often have?

The statistics would put Chelsea top of the European league - perhaps apt given they are the current champions of Europe. As a non-Chelsea fan, I have to admit to hoping a team with a smaller IP portfolio has a successful season ahead!

Volksparkstadion: Home of Hamburger SV and 4 CTMs
Trade Mark Owner
City, country
No. of CTMs
No. of RCDs
No. of IRs
Total
Madrid, Spain
22
0
2
24
Barcelona, Spain
21
0
14
35
Manchester, England, UK
28
0
8
36
Munich, Germany
7
5
6
18
London, England, UK
18
0
4
22
London, England, UK
38
1
11
50
Milan, Italy
20
0
14
34
Milan, Italy
12
0
5
17
Liverpool, England, UK
8
4
4
16
Gelsenkirchen, Germany
3
0
0
3
London, England, UK
22
5
3
30
Manchester, England, UK
3
1
0
4
Turin, Italy
11
0
5
16
Marseille, France
6
0
1
7
Rome, Italy
6
0
5
11
Dortmund, Germany
7
0
1
8
Lyon, France
5
0
3
8
Hamburg, Germany
4
1
5
10
Valencia, Spain
22
3
9
34
Naples, Italy
1
0
1
2
Madrid, Spain
2
0
1
3
Stuttgart, Germany
3
0
0
3
Birmingham, England, UK
7
1
0
8
Lisbon, Portugal
2
0
3
5
Bremen, Germany
2
0
4
6
Newcastle upon Tyne, England, UK
3
0
0
3
Amsterdam, Netherlands
1
0
6
7
Liverpool, England, UK
1
0
0
1
London, England, UK
3
0
1
4
Sunderland, England, UK
2
0
0
2
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
7
0
3
10
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
3
1
2
6
Brussels, Belgium
6
0
0
6

Statistics are provided in good faith but may contain errors. There is some duplication between the figures of CTMs and IRs when the European Community has been designated in an International application. It may contain abandoned and lapsed cases. Representative check was very cursory - only the first CTM listed was checked. This post is really just a bit of fun.

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